Can Marina Abramović Even See People Without Her Glasses?


Klaus Biesenbach, the curator of Marina Abramović’s retrospective show, said last week, “You know, she can’t see anyone without her glasses.” So could the artist actually see any of the 1,545 people who sat opposite her in MoMA’s atrium?

That was certainly Artforum‘s interpretation of the remark, which Biesenbach let slip during a mangled, meandering speech before the assembled crowd at the show’s celeb-studded, Givenchy-sponsored closing dinner. Writes Artforum:

The most unsettling part of the evening came when the tippling Biesenbach took the podium. He didn’t thank anyone. Instead he used the moment to make public his two-decade-long unrequited love for Abramović. “Look at me, Marina,” he began. “Listen to me, Marina,” he went on. “Why don’t you look at me? You know,” he then said to the guests, tossing aside his prepared remarks, “she can’t see anyone without her glasses,” thereby negating the experience of all those sitters who thought she was paying special attention to them. This brought loud murmurs. “Will you stop talking and listen to me?” he said. “OK, don’t listen. I don’t care. Marina? Are you listening?”

Biesenbach also mentioned how early in his crush, he thought that Abramović loved him back. “Biggest mistake of my career,” said the curator and director of PS1. Artforum‘s zinger: “Clearly not bigger than this one.”

But that glasses thing. Is it really possible that for the nearly three months, the 700 total hours that Abramović spent sitting and making eye contact with anyone who could hack the line, she couldn’t see any of the people before her? Was “The Artist Is Present,” with its moving promise of an authentic human connection, of intimate-but-wordless communication in a cold and uncaring city, all one big scam? Did we mistake for a piercing, Slavic gaze the unfocussed confusion of a woman merely struggling with myopia? Are Paco Blancas, Colm Tóibín and the weird naked lady crying into their powder puffs/notebooks/piles of discarded clothing as we speak?

Absolutely not, Gordana Zivkovic, a friend of Abramović and a fellow artist, tells us. “She is not blind. Of course she can see. Sometimes she wears her glasses for reading, as you can see on some photos.” Zivkovic believes that Biesenbach was just “making jokes.”

So the dude has a weird sense of humor to match his off-kilter sense of decorous speech in celeb-studded, Givenchy-sponsored spaces. And he certainly doesn’t know when to let a crush go already. But attention, members of the elect 1,545: Your Marina Abramović experience was in no way a fraud. “Also Marina sees with every cell of her being,” points out Zivkovic, helpfully. Ah, we get it. Glasses are immaterial — just like her art.

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Last Supper [Artforum]

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